Date: 27th December 2010 at 11:01am
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A year in charge and second in the title race is excellent news for Roberto Mancini. Like the other managers of the current top four he will be well fed up at throwing away winnable points which would have seen City top of the league.

Recovery from the Everton setback was paramount as City took the field yesterday, with a line-up that looked defensive but capable of springing a surprise or two. On the other hand Pardew set Newcastle up in a more or less compact 4-4-2 reminiscent of his days elsewhere, obviously seeking to hit City out wide and then let Carroll get amongst the central defenders especially Lescott who was drafted in due to Toure’s suspension.

Santa couldn’t have arrived faster at St James Park yesterday. From Newcastle’s kick-off the ball went from Joe Hart down the right and with Milner pressing it was steered back to Krul in goal. His impressive start to the season came crashing down around him as instead of clearing his lines, and with Silva closing him down quickly, his selected pass found Tevez. Instead of taking a shot at goal, he spotted Barry’s diagonal run into space, sent the ball into the slot and Barry placed it between Krul’s legs and into the back of the net. 1-0 City with 70 seconds on the clock.

The Gallowgate hoping to celebrate their fist Boxing Day home match, is it for eight years, were shell-shocked.

Four minutes later City caused problems once again, with Tevez moving from midfield picking out Milner on the right, then continuing his run into the box. With Newcastle defenders getting drawn towards the ball, Milner slid it into Tevez, finding space in front of goal, who cleverly placed it in the top corner, giving Krul no chance.

2-0 City, get these nets lads and let’s get back on the A1.

The Mags couldn’t have expected this indeed us City fans didn’t expect it either, as we looked on from our position on about level ten. Can you really see Blackpool tower on a clear day from there?

Poor passing from Newcastle allowed City at times to keep the ball with embarrassing ease, but the black-and-whites persisted in trying to find City’s full backs upfield and exploit the space behind then, much of the time to no avail. Boateng was resolute and Kolarov mountainous.

Carroll did get clear with a free header in front of goal but missed, other chances fell to the likes of Nolan and ended similarly.

Hart kept command of the area, Kompany and Lescott defended close together to keep Newcastle at bay.

Alan Pardew’s notebook was brim full as he took his lads in at half time. They had played reasonably well but their two errors had effectively ended the game as a competition…or had it?

Newcastle began the second half with more purpose. City old boy Barton hit some neat passes out wide and once again their main men up front went close.

After 70 minutes Barton’s free kick looked to be heading for the danger area but Boateng had tracked the runners and neatly headed out for a corner. Barton took the corner, City’s defenders followed the Newcastle players to the near post and Carroll arriving late found space to send an excellent header straight into City’s net. Boateng hadn’t tracked this time and Hart was yellow-carded for persisting with his argument that he was deliberately impeded and probably was by Nolan. Game on!

The Mags came storming back into the game. Nolan was desperately unlucky to see his clear chance creep past the post, twice in fact, and Carroll, proving to be a handful could have been playing his way into Mancini’s January transfer plans. An equaliser looked the most likely outcome.

As often happens though, City, this time against the run of play broke clear with passes exchanged between Milner and Tevez down the left. Tevez played in substitute Johnson on the edge of the box and then continued his run into the danger area. Probably tempted to have a shot, Johnson confused the defenders and then slid a David Silva-style pass into the six yard box where Tevez was lurking. His first time effort cannoned off two Newcastle defenders and into the net leaving Krul somewhat perplexed. At last it truly was, game over.

So City are now second in the league with Aston Villa and Blackpool next up at Eastlands. Both winnable.

At Newcastle we finally started to see glimpses of Milner’s game coming together. I have been critical of him in recent matches but today he joined up well with Tevez with both of them keeping their game up-tempo. Mike Summerbee told me when Milner was a Newcastle player that he at that time was the only true (English) winger playing in the English game and today playing wider out than usual he started to restate that. Newcastle’s formation did allow him that space. At Eastlands the presence of a fifth man in the opposition midfield often stifles his progress but if he is to get anything close to regular international status he needs to learn to manage that.

Both Tevez and Silva got ‘between the lines’ regularly and Tevez demonstrated to the likes of Mario Balotelli, watching most of this match from the dugout, just what it takes to become one of the world’s best footballers.

Having seemingly spat his dummy out last week, Tevez found one in his sock when the first goal went in and promptly put it back in. His game at Newcastle was almost a Tevez masterclass, shutting the door from advanced positions and, comme, d’habitude, getting on the scoresheet. Twice.

De Jong, soundly booed by the Gallowgate from the start was immense in midfield. He destroyed much of Newcastle’s best work and picked out quality passes easily.I like the way that players like Barry, interviewed on TV and Mancini are talking about the next match only and not promising the fans the world. This is far more professional than answering the sometimes dumb questions that they are asked.

If City can improve their home form as they have done their away, this can be a very interesting season. Villa and Blackpool give us the chance to get points on the board. Villa look a bit rudderless at present and Blackpool will give us a high energy type match which could just leave Silva and Tevez the spaces to operate.

Arsenal is our next away league match and we certainly owe the Ashburton Assassins one!!


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